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Multiple stories

Telling the story of the Shrine of Lovere
is telling multiple stories,
one intertwined with the other.

First stone of the Lovere Shrine
First stone of the Shrine

- HISTORY OF THE SAINTS -

It is in fact the story of two women attracted by the charity of Jesus: Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa.

It is the story of a designer, Mgr Spirit Maria Chiappetta, who took ten years of his life to complete the work. It's the story of many artists who have left their mark with frescoes and mosaics on the walls. 

And it is above all the history of Institute of Lovere.

Affresco di Bartolomea Capitanio mentre insegna alle bambine
Affresco di Vincenza Gerosa mentre soccorre una povera donna

The enterprise began on a significant date for Lovere, May 30, 1926, a day of celebration for the beatification of Bartolomea Capitanio.The event involved the entire city and the surroundings of Lake Iseo. On the occasion of this celebration, the Sisters of Charity decided to create a worthy place to venerate the Blessed Capitanio, waiting also for beatification of Vincenza Gerosa happened in 1933.

If you want to delve deeper into the history of the saints 

foto vecchia del Conventino di Lovere

A sanctuary shrine that should also have corresponded to the wishes of Bartolomea herself. who During her life, she had hoped to have a small church where the Eucharistic presence of Jesus could be preserved, and the small chapel was built adjacent to the Casa Gaia, House, today more commonly known as “Conventino”, but in 1926 it was no longer suitable for welcoming the crowds of pilgrims.

As celebrations were drawing near, a rumour was spread among the girls and women of Lovere that there were plans to take away the remains of B. Capitanio to the Generalate, Milan. This long-felt fear among the population grew all the more alarming when the Committee from Bishop's Curia of Brescia arrived at the Conventino to carry out the identification of the remains and to take relics necessary for worship, after the beatification. On 8 April 1926, in spite of the pouring rain, a crowd, mainly of women, gathered twice over, before the Conventino and demanded that civil authorities should intervene. The Superior herself, Sr. Domenica Marchesan, had again and again to appear at the window and assure them that the remains of B. Capitanio were to remain in Lovere. Following upon the protest, a committee was sent to the Bishop of Brescia, and a letter was written on behalf of the whole population. News of it appeared in many journals.

(M. Carraro – A. Mascotti, L’Istituto delle Sante Bartolomea Capitanio e Vincenza Gerosa, vol II, nota 29, p. 102)

Old photo of a procession with the urn of Bartolomea Capitanio

- PRESENTATION OF THE SHRINE -

In choosing the architect who would build the sanctuary shrine, the Congregation entrusted herself itself to a designer of proven faith: Spirito Maria Chiappetta (1868-1948). 
In fact, he was not only an engineer but also a priest; he had worn the robe for the first time was ordained at the age of 54, in 1924, and two years later Pope Pius XI had called him to the Vatican to direct the Office for the design of parish houses in Italy. Shortly thereafter, his fame would grow further, with his appointment in 1929 to as president of the Central Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art in Italy. 
He was therefore one of the most prominent sacred art personalities of his time.

Spirito Maria Chiappetta only dealt with sacred architecture, combining an exceptional drawing ability with a strong faith and religious vocation, shared by many family members. 
His sister, Anna Maria, had been welcomed into the Poor Clares convent in Lovere.

It is therefore no coincidence that it was precisely in Lovere that he left one of his greatest works, where every detail was designed under his scrupulous direction. 

However, the construction of the Shrine was also an arduous challenge, given the chalky, water-rich soil on which the foundations rest; many local inhabitants and reporters were convinced that no column would ever be raised.

 

For further information, look at video:

"The miracle of technology 2.0"

- SHRINE ART -

Despite the difficulties, the work managed to start and soon the citizens saw the Gothic shape of the bell tower standing out in the sky of Lovere. The façade, surmounted by the Nolar tower, is positioned perpendicularly to the internal direction of the temple, consisting of the axis that starts from the primitive chapel of Casa Gaia and reaches the altar.

The interior, although small in size, is extremely dynamic, thanks to the decoration that covers every centimeter of the building. The believer, upon entering, perceives an upward movement which pushes him to raise his gaze towards the vault, image of paradise, dominated by the Agnus Dei from which the Holy Spirit departs.

A series of angels praise God and the Blessed Virgin, as revealed by the various cartouches. 
At the same time, an opposite movement, marked by the series of Virgins and Martyrs on the move, pushes the gaze towards the altar and the bodies of the Saints.

The Shrine therefore stands asexaltation of the life of Capitanio and Gerosa, and painted prayer, raised in honour of Christ King of the Virgins and the Blessed Virgin herself. Along the ribs of the vaults, hundreds of clipei contain Marian symbols, in solemn praise to the Virgin Mary. Every detail is symbolic, part of a complex catechetical-mystagogical program, carefully thought out and organized across multiple reading registers.

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Christ King of the Virgins

In the highest part of the walls three large frescoes celebrate the life of the Lovere saints. 
Near the organ, Christ and the angels bless and supervise the works of charity: assistance to the sick and children. On the sidewalls, two mournful moments are placed: the death of Bartolomea Capitanio, in the presence of Don Angelo Bosio, Caterina and the children, and Gerosa's prediction of her imminent death to a sister.

The frescoes and the entire decoration were created by a series of Bergamo artists, belonging to the "School" of the painter Fermo Taragni (1871-1948). 
Among them, the brushes of Pasquale Arzuffi (1897-1965), stand out, author of three large frescoes on the lives of the saints and Umberto Marigliani (1885-1960), who was responsible for the creation of the series of the Virgins and Martyrs.

It was Spirito Maria Chiappetta himself who entrusted the task to Taragni and his collaborators, with whom there was an active artistic partnership, which led them to work on many other construction sites. The authors of the magnificent decoration of Lovere were therefore not marginal painters, but rather protagonists of the sacred art system of the first half of the previous century.

balaustra bronzea santuario di lovere

Looking down at the lower registers, are seen the bronze mirrors of the balustrades, shaped by the famous Milan MAF foundry, a point of reference for many twentieth century artists. 

The subjects chosen derive from the early Christian iconographic repertoire: the Good Shepherd, the peacocks drinking from the cantharus, the deer at the spring and the ship of the Church sailing a stormy sea. 
It is easy to understand the symbols, with their clear references to Salvation and its source.

In the lower part of the walls, the gaze of the faithful meets that of the Saints and Martyrs on the journey towards Christ, recognizable thanks to the signs of martyrdom or the symbols handed down by the hagiographic tradition. And an all-female procession, which moves in a scenario as simple and exotic, characterized by palm trees, the symbol par excellence of Christian martyrdom, and white lilies, to express the virginity and purity of the protagonists. Ancient saints walk alongside recent saints, such as Therese of Lisieux or Bernadette of Lourdes, saints dear to the faith of northern Italy, for example Marcellina, are placed alongside the famous saints of the South, such as Rosalia of Palermo.

In the lower part of the walls, the gaze of the faithful meets that of the Saints and Martyrs on the journey towards Christ, recognizable thanks to the signs of martyrdom or the symbols handed down by the hagiographic tradition. And an all-female procession, which moves in a scenario as simple and exotic, characterized by palm trees, the symbol par excellence of Christian martyrdom, and white lilies, to express the virginity and purity of the protagonists. Ancient saints walk alongside recent saints, such as Therese of Lisieux or Bernadette of Lourdes, saints dear to the faith of northern Italy, for example Marcellina, are placed alongside the famous saints of the South, such as Rosalia of Palermo.

The universality of faith and the Church is thus depicted, of which Bartolomea and Vincenza are among the most recent witnesses. Their destination is the altar, which houses the Eucharist, to which two large frescoes are joined: the Wedding at Cana and the Distribution of the loaves painted by Giovanni Marigliani. There, Capitanio and Gerosa are crowned by Christ, under the pleased gaze of those Virgins and Martyrs who constituted the model of their earthly existence.

The same universality is found in the stained glass windows portraying the patron saints of the geographical areas in which the Congregation of Charity had expanded in the first hundred years of its history.

The stained-glass windows are the work of two master glassmakers: Costantino Grondona (1891-1939), active in Cusano Milanino, for the ambulatory and the apses, and the Roman Cesare Giuliani (1882-1954), for the galleries. 

They are works of great technical and figurative mastery, which exemplify the highest artistic craftsmanship of the beginning of the century.

lovere shrine marbles

Also of notable quality are the wrought iron and the marble works. The Shrine presents itself as a collection of dozens and dozens of marbles in use at that time, coming from Italy and the entire Mediterranean basin.  Once again, the highest quality of materials is combined with the Bergamo expertise of manufacturing, with the intervention of Remuzzi marble workers, still active in the sector.

Finally, not to be overlooked are the mosaic works of the Vatican School, over whose tiles the golden light comes from the stained-glass windows. The four columns represent the foolish virgins and the wise virgins, protagonists of a parable from the Gospel of Matthew.

To crown the columns, there are four capitals designed by Spirito Maria Chiappetta himself, enriched by the symbolism of plant elements; the whwat spikes and grapes, symbol of the Eucharist, dialogue with the lilies and the rose, symbols of the two Saints; the passionflower and ivy bring to mind the torment of the Passion, while the oak and laurel recall the resurrection and hope in true faith.

capital.jpg

In the lateral apses the relics of the saints are venerated: on the left Bartolomea and on the right Vincenza. In the center of the main altar, there is a relief in the frontal with the Deposition of Christ, executed on the model of Giovanni Manzoni like the Crucifix and the frieze of the dossal with a host of adoring Angels.

 

But what is the style of such a place, rich in art?

Someone has rightly stated that Monsignor Chiappetta combined Romanesque with Gothic, Mozarabic with Byzantine. We are in fact in the era of eclecticism.

There are references to the English Pre-Raphaelites, to French symbolism, to the Nazarene painters, to the floral style of the beginning of the century.  

Lovere's art can thus be compared to the more famous construction sites of Lourdes, Montecassino, Loreto. 
The eclecticism of the Shrine, is undoubtedly among the last and most notable testimonies of that nineteenth-century academic culture, anchored to tradition, but based on a very fine drawing and craftsmanship ability, which a few years later would disappear or mutate into other forms.

The Shrine was consecrated by Msgr. Giacinto Tredici, Bishop of Brescia, on 1 October 1938.

Bartolomea and Vincenza were both canonized by Pope Pius XII on 18 May 1950.

Since then they have been the patron saints of Lovere.

The Sisters of Charity, custodians of the Shrine, are spread all over the world and are also known as Sisters of Maria BambinaIn the ancient chapel, there is a wax statue of the Child Mary.

To know more: 
"Il tempio di Lovere consacrato a Cristo Re dei vergini in onore delle Beate Bartolomea Capitanio e Vincenza Gerosa", Venezia 1938

Fappani A., "S. Giovanni Battista in Monte Cala, in A. Fappani, Santuari nel bresciano, vol. V, Brescia 1983, pp. 114-122

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